Harley Young enjoys dinner and entertainment, courtesy of the famous Italian chef, at his Old Hall Street restaurant
On Tuesday night, I had the pleasure of joining The Strong Agency as their guest at the Old Hall Street restaurant for an evening with celebrity Italian chef Gennaro - better known as his nickname, Gino.
On arrival, guests were welcomed with prosecco and donned their best glad rags ready to meet the man they know and love from off the tele. The atmosphere was palpable as people eagerly took their seats at their designated tables.
Gino thanked the packed-out restaurant of guests for attending and quickly whipped them up into a frenzy
After an appetiser of arancine al tartufo (truffle arancini) and a glass of Vermentino di Gallura Kintari (Sardinian white wine) served and chosen by Gino’s head sommelier and friend of 20 years, Giuseppe Bergonzi, we were ready for an introduction from the main man himself.
Gino appeared donning his chef whites with an Italian flag stitched into the left shoulder as homage to his heritage. Chef Gino thanked the packed-out restaurant of guests for attending and quickly whipped them up into a frenzy, laughing and joking with each table as he playfully teased Giuseppe about the wine saying “Nobody f**king cares. Wine is wine!”
Gino introduced the first course, capesante (roast hand dived scallop with vermouth, garlic and lemon topped with breadcrumbs) and headed back into the kitchen to assist his team of chefs with the next array of dishes. The scallop was perfectly cooked, meaty but not too chewy, and came beautifully presented, served on a shell - the Sardinian white wine both complementing and elevating the flavour.
Our second wine, a moreish chardonnay from Trentino, was a welcome addition to the next course - ravioli con zucca (pumpkin and ricotta ravioli dressed with sage butter and toasted almonds).
During this course, Gino returned to talk with each table, meeting ours with a smile and a very European kiss on each cheek. Gino sat with us for a few minutes and joked that he was ‘drinkless’ so I asked him what his favourite tipple was and he responded “a Negroni”. One was swiftly placed in his hand and we laughed and joked some more.
The main course came in the form of probably the most succulent beef I’ve had the pleasure of tasting this year. Brasato di manzo (slow braised beef in red wine served with shallots and potato purée), paired with Giuseppe’s recommendation, Nebbiolo Monferrato Avamposti. The beef fell apart with the slightest touch of a fork and was complemented by an incredibly smooth and flavourful potato puree. A rich and indulgent dish that I couldn’t get enough of.
Entertainment came in the form of tableside magic which was equally as enthralling as it was bamboozling. Guests had the opportunity to have their photo taken with the TV personality and Giuseppe asked everyone to think of a question to ask him, to which Gino retorted “I will answer everything completely honestly.”
Dessert was then served; a generous slab of cheesecake al cioccolato (chocolate and hazelnut cheesecake) topped with a Ferrero Rocher and served with a berry compote. Giuseppe paired this with a decadent and fruity dessert wine called Angelorum Recioto Della Valpolicella Classico. This rich, cherry-heavy wine went down a little too easy, making my sweet tooth sing and complemented the cheesecake really well, too.
During dessert, Gino answered questions from diners, including whether he would work with fellow chef and co-star of TV series Gordon, Gino and Fred: Road Trip Gordon Ramsay in the same kitchen. Gino joked back “Why not? You always need an extra pot washer.”
After the Q&A, Gino was presented with a handmade self-portrait that one of the diners had made for him which he was quite moved by. He smiled and thanked the artist, saying “Now I have to convince my family to let me put a picture of my own face on our wall.”
Chef Gino once again thanked his guests for coming and each attendee was presented with a goody bag filled with some of his favourite products from his cooking range, an autographed cookbook and a voucher for their next visit to his restaurant.
Gino’s hosting exclusive evenings at his restaurants all this week, including his restaurants in Newcastle and Leeds. Find out more about upcoming events here.
Follow Harley Young on X @Harley__Young
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